In a small town in Mexico in the year 1531, a newly converted Christian peasant man, named Juan Diego, was walking from his village in the area we now know as Mexico City, when he was met by an apparition of a woman surrounded in light. She appeared to be a teenager and spoke his native language. She asked him to go to the archbishop with the instructions to build a church on that very site. The archbishop, Juan de Zumárraga, told Juan to return to the woman and ask for a sign that would prove that the vision was real. Juan Diego as he was asked. The Lady appeared to him again upon his return and instructed him to pick some roses that were nearby (The roses shouldn’t have been in bloom nor were they native to that area). Juan Diego returned to the archbishop with these roses tucked neatly in his tilma (think poncho). Upon returning to the archbishop and unfurling his tilma with the roses, a miraculous image of the Lady had been imprinted on the tilma. This tilma, which should have deteriorated long ago is still on display at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The miracle of the apparition and tilma-image of the Virgin Mary, now called Our Lady of Guadalupe, was responsible for the conversion of over 9 million people within the first eight years after the apparition. That’s three thousand people every day for eight years! The Franciscan missionaries were astounded at the number of native people who were coming to be baptized and receive the other Sacraments. It was also the greatest force for unification of the Spanish Conquistadors and native people of Mexico. Even today, I think it is safe to say, that the image of our Lady of Guadalupe is synonymous with the Mexican people and more a symbol of their identity than their national flag. The Basilica where the tilma is on display is one of the most visited shrines in the world. Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the patroness of all the Americas and was declared by Pope John Paul II to be the patroness of the unborn. Juan Diego was canonized in 2002. The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the oldest approved marian apparitions in the Church.
The official date for this celebration is December 12. Please make sure to review the flyer in today’s bulletin for our calendar of events surrounding the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Most everything will be bilingual. I hope to see you at any or all of the events surrounding this important festival which has a special place for our Hispanic parishioners.
Fr. William Holtzinger